Border closures and international travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t stopping some of the world’s top talent from collaborating with Canadian researchers this summer. Relying on video calls and other advanced technology tools, Hina Tomar, an undergraduate student at Aligarh Muslim University’s Zakir Husain College of Engineering and Technology, in India, is one of over 1,000 students from 12 countries working remotely on leading-edge research with universities in Canada during the summer of 2021.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, food insecurity issues were only exacerbated for Nisga’a members living on Coastal Ts’msyen Territories in northwestern BC, Prince Rupert, and Port Edward communities.
Even before the crisis, there were pressing challenges in addressing food security. For the past three years, the North Coast Innovation Lab, a place-based initiative by Ecotrust Canada, and the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society, a social enterprise that supports members of the Nisga’a Nation living in Prince Rupert, collaborated on a Mitacs-funded project.
Researchers from the University of Winnipeg (UWinnipeg) and the University of Saskatchewan (USask) have taken on an ambitious challenge: build the ground for the next revolution in global farming and food production. With support from George Weston Limited and Mitacs, the team is filling a gap within the digital agriculture field by building a robotic system to create an open dataset of Canadian prairie crop plants and weeds.
When postdoctoral fellow Mahdiyeh Hasani of University of Guelph came to Canada in 2017 and began working with Professor Keith Warriner to decontaminate produce, she had no idea that in just a few years COVID-19 would dramatically change the world — and the impact of her research.
Professor Isabel Desgagné-Penix and her team at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières are the first to demonstrate that cannabinoids can be successfully grown in microalgae by a process called metabolic engineering.
The process of metabolic engineering extracts the genes responsible for cannabinoid production from cannabis plants and inserts them into algae, creating a type of cannabis surrogacy in algae.
Buddy is as old as maple syrup, and it’s not friendly. This burned-Tootsie-Roll taste can ruin syrup flavour and is undetectable until sap is processed — far too late for small producers to recoup costs.
The annual cost of buddy, which the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association (OMSPA) estimates can reach into the millions, is a lot of liquid gold for small producers who are forced to sell buddy product at highly reduced rates. To avoid the risk, some producers stop production too early in the season, missing the opportunity to make high-quality syrup.
“If this works, the potential impact will be huge because there are no long-term rehabilitation harnesses available on the market today,” said Dr. Julia Montgomery (Med Vet, PhD) at USask’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, who leads the research.
The horse industry contributes more than $19 billion annually to the Canadian economy, according to a 2010 study by Equestrian Canada, and is responsible for more than 80,000 full-time jobs on farms and in horse racing and competitions.
Barley production, however, has declined over the past 15 years, as Canadian farmers lose ground to international competitors. International beer producers have a thirst for new varieties but Canada’s adoption process is slower than competitor countries. Australia and Germany bring new varietals of barley to market in five to seven years. In Canada, the same two strains have dominated the market for the past 20 years.
A few years later, that opportunity has allowed Joel to build a career for himself, and make developments that have benefitted the company and Canada’s agricultural sector.
“It was hardcore research,” says Joel, looking back on his internship. “Not just gathering data, but also looking at the results, drawing conclusions, and making recommendations directly to the general manager. It was more like a project as a professional than as an intern, and it definitely gave me a foot in the door.” Joel’s internship also led to the company filing a patent on some of his work.
To help tackle this environmental issue, Mitacs intern Oldooz Pooyanfar, a graduate student from Simon Fraser University’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, is working on a ‘smart’ system that monitors the health of honey bees and their hives. Once installed inside a beehive, her integrated monitoring system allows beekeepers to observe and track the health of their colonies. The device uses microscopic sensors and microphones to pick up sounds and vibrations emitted by bees and can also be used to observe the temperature and humidity of each hive.